Electrical plugs and chargers
This advice is designed to provide basic guidance. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law.
Regulations require that all domestic electrical appliances are fitted with a plug from new.
All manufacturers and importers are required to ensure that electrical items they supply are fitted with UK three-pin plugs with the proper fuse. The only exceptions to this rule are for certain fixed electric lights, appliances intended to be permanently wired into the mains and appliances with an RCD plug or plug transformer. Distributors and retailers must not sell any appliances without a correct fused plug fitted.
Any standard UK plug fitted must be approved by a notified body and either conforms to BS 1363 or offers an equivalent level of safety. The standard requires that the live and neutral pins on plugs are part insulated so as to prevent shocks when removing plugs from sockets. As an alternative to fitting a standard plug, it is permissible, if the appliance is correctly fitted with a non-UK plug which complies with the provisions of international standard IEC 884-1, to be fitted with a "conversion plug" that has been approved for use in conjunction with the non-UK plug. The "conversion plug" must enclose the non-UK plug, and must only be removable by the use of a tool. The "conversion plug" must be approved by a notified body.
The requirement to supply all appliances with a fitted plug also applies to the second hand trade.
Plugs, adaptors and fuses can still be sold alone. Any plugs must be of an approved design and be labelled with the mark of the approval body and any appropriate instructions for safe use.
This applies to both three-pin plugs and conversion plugs to adapt foreign plugs to fit UK sockets. All fuses must comply with the relevant British Standard (i.e. BS1362 – the standard for general purpose fuses for domestic or similar purposes).
Recently there has been an increase in the number of non compliant chargers found on the market. Some basic visual checks can be made to determine whether phone or MP3 chargers comply with the safety regulations:
If the live and neutral pins of a charger are under 9.5mm from the outer flange of the product they will fail to comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994, and must not be sold. Pin distances below this limit increase the risk of electrocution as the plug is withdrawn from a socket. The charger shown below has the correct pin distance from the outer surround.
In addition the British Standard and Schedule 3 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 requires the manufacturer's brand name or trade mark to be clearly printed on the electrical equipment.
Whilst these tests are not definitive and relate to technical breaches of the Regulations, they are nevertheless a good indication of likely non-compliances with the safety regulations.
Further non-compliances may exist which can only be identified through testing, for instance:
- The internal insulation may not provide adequate insulation between the input and output circuits. A breakdown of the insulation could cause the output circuit to be energised at mains voltage with the risk of electric shock.
- The internal connections may not be soldered sufficiently to maintain their position. A loose wire could reduce creepage distances and clearances with the risk of electric shock.
- The charger may have inadequately sized pins. This can cause overheating or arcing within the socket or the pins may detach from the body when the plug is pulled out of the socket.
How to report a product problem
- Extension leads and sockets - Socket overload calculator
Electrical Safety Council
- Buying Electrical Goods Online? - The Safe Shoppers Guide
Electrical Safety Council
B/saf/207/002 December 2012